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Teaching Adolescents to Critically Evaluate Online Information

Author: Julie Coiro, University of Rhode Island

Partial results of a study conducted in 2012 as part of The ORCA (Online Reading Comprehension Assessment) Project and presented at the Literacy Research Association's annual meeting in December 2013.

Abstract

This paper presents qualitative findings from a study that examined the types of criteria middle school students use to evaluate the quality of online information and sources while accomplishing a web-based research assignment. Open-constructed responses from two sets of four critical evaluation items (a subset of 16 items designed to measure online reading comprehension performance) were compiled from diverse seventh-graders in a representative, two-state, stratified random sample (n = 773). Qualitative methods were employed to answer two research questions: 1) What criteria do seventh graders use when asked to evaluate sources and information on a website as part of an online reading assignment? 2)What common patterns of evidence do seventh graders use to justify their reasoning about a website author’s level of expertise, his/her point of view, and the overall trustworthiness of the information provided? Content analysis revealed that many students used a range of unacceptable or superficial criteria to determine the author of a website; determine if that author is an expert; state the author’s point of view; and provide reasoned evidence about the overall reliability of a website. The types and qualitative nuances of criteria used for each of the four critical evaluation tasks are discussed as well as implications of these findings for research and instruction, especially in light of the Common Core State Standards.To view a video of a proficient reader completing one of the ORCA tasks, visit http://webdev.education.uconn.edu/static/research/orca-video-ira1/

SOURCE: Coiro, J. & Coscarelli, C. (2013, December). Investigating criteria seventh-graders use to evaluate the quality of online information. Paper presented in Leu, D. J. (Chair), Thinking critically about the critical evaluation of online information. Symposium presented at the 63rd annual meeting of the Literacy Research Association, Dallas, TX.

The ORCA (Online Research and Comprehension Assessment) Project is a five-year federal research grant funded by the U. S. Department of Education’s Institute of Educational Science (IES). The Co-Principal Investigators on this project include Donald J. Leu, University of Connecticut; Jonna Kulikowich, Pennsylvania State University; Nell Sedransk, National Institute of Statistical Sciences, and Julie Coiro, University of Rhode Island.


Summary of patterns and percentages of incorrect responses and unacceptable criteria 7th grade students (n = 773) used to judge the quality of information on the Internet – Data collected in 2012 and reported in 2013
Crit Eval Responses Figure.png

SOURCE: Coiro, J. & Coscarelli, C. (2013, December). Investigating criteria seventh-graders use to evaluate the quality of online information. Paper presented in Leu, D. J. (Chair), Thinking critically about the critical evaluation of online information. Symposium presented at the 63rd annual meeting of the Literacy Research Association, Dallas, TX.

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